Dominik Bartkowski: Bareback
Published on January 1st, 2008
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For his recent project Bareback Dominik Bartkowski uses his own developed software program Chroma. Chroma is a tool that allows you to edit and compose clips, based on a colour recognition algorithm. Like colour filters blocking pictures on Google, chroma makes an analysis of the picture, but now the output of the analysis is a cut up tool. Bareback deals with censorship and Internet filtering, it displays how censorware works and how it generates and influences language on sexuality, desire and lust.
by Annet Dekker
(published at Impakt – Adventures in Sound & Image, 2008)
Dominik Bartkowski grew up in Poland and France, he holds a degree in Graphic Design From Le Quai, Ecole Supérieures des Beaux-Arts de Mulhouse, 2005. After this he graduated in Media Design at the Piet Zwart Institute Rotterdam where he worked on a project to analyse the esthetics of pornography and the bureaucratic language used to describe topics such as desire, AIDS and prevention.
For his recent project Bareback he uses his own developed software program Chroma. Chroma is a tool that allows you to edit and compose clips, based on a colour recognition algorithm. Like colour filters blocking pictures on Google, chroma makes an analysis of the picture, but now the output of the analysis is a cut up tool. In a lot of tools, like Photoshop and Gimp, you can compose a collage selecting colors with the magic wand tool. In the case of chroma you will not see the selected shape like in Photoshop, but you will see it as a wheel of selected pixels or as the rendering of the jpeg but without your selection.
His project Bareback deals with censorship and internet filtering, it displays how censorware works and how it generates and influences language on sexuality, desire and lust. The project consists of a movie generator and video editor that show the audience how censorship limits vision and discloses desire. (Realized as a realtime-generated multimedia video installation based on Linux, ffmpeg, mencoder and Python/PIL.) In the following short interview Dominik talks about his interest in Bareback and he explains the working of his software tool Chroma.
AD. What is Bareback?
DB. Bareback is a form of pornography that fetishises unprotected and unsafe sex. Bareback is a project that questions the language used to deal with desire and lust. It is a reflection on the Internet censorship and its effects on this language.
Bareback shows the gap between the official, accepted language on desire and the porn mainstream imagery. It opens also a door for a discussion in between, where, filtered codified images and videos could express what pornography and the official language are omitting.
AD. Is Bareback limited to the internet?
DB. It is at the moment the most important platform because it plays a very significant role to let it grow. Of course it also has its role offline but the internet gives another meaning to the importance of bareback. I think it signifies that people are looking for something maybe more emotional. I do not think it is just about unprotected sex, but to me it also exemplifies a lack of emotional engagement that with bare contact people try to compensate. This side of the “problem” does not get any attention; it is mostly regarded as dirty and dangerous, a fetish at most – but than only a dangerous one.
AD. What is your interest in this subject?
DB. In general I want to display the abundance of imagery, especially present online.
I don’t think that existing video databases like You Tube display what people are really thinking and what they really feel like. These sites are still very much censored, many videos are being censored immediately and some are taken off afterwards.
Another thing I am very interested in is the potential in remixing. Although there is some mock-ups and places where you can play with the material from You Tube, for example Youthreeb produces maybe visually interesting graphics and a rewarding result. But it is not a tool for a critical approach of the video language. Nor does it help the understanding and the analysis of the video language on the web. Web applications, art works and programs using materials from those websites are building up a visual language with a grammar predefined by the company owning You Tube and its (copyright) policies.
I am very interested in the open function of the web2.0, the concept of blogging, where users are able to comment articles, posts, pictures uploaded by somebody else. But the concept of appropriation is very often limited to a simple gadget and any notion of creative playability or a critical appropriation of the medium does not exist.
And in the case of bareback pornography my interest focuses on the importance of the phenomenon in the gay crowd and on dating websites. And the fact that unprotected sex is being disclosed within the pornographic imagery only. Mainstream articles and forums about bareback stay very moralist. Mainstream and gay media is mostly interested in tracking the barebackers than giving honorable advices about unsafe sex.
AD. What is the project about?
DB. It is a project, which is born from my frustration by web 2.0 and the different tools for online video editing and media collage. “Deconstructive editing” is inspired by the idea of a media collage in which users are invited to use existing materials and experience video editing in a less linear way. In the other hand, it is a way of questionings the mainstream cinematographic language and its patterns of representation.
As I said I am interested in ways of appropriation, because it is a very significant way to criticize the mainstream video language dealing with desire and lust. Appropriation is being used as a methodology for a critical and analytical approach. For sexual minorities, appropriation is an operation of observing, mapping the official language dealing with desire.
I opted for the form of a video forum because I am dealing with the cinematographic language and its extension to the behavior of a community. In the other hand videos produced with my software are aesthetically interesting, they could be downloaded and shared very easily. Another point in which the internet plays an important role, it provides the material but one can also actually do something meaningful with it afterwards. It gives the opportunity to easily react and give different meaning.
The video project is an interface for a web based movie editor, which allows the user to create an abstract, codified movie using porn clips coming from a video database with gay bareback clips. In the main interface, the user is asked to select a thumbnail matching his skin color. Thanks to the color analysis we can select or remove different parts of the motion. Those parts can be related to racial preferences or different kinds of fetishes. By morphing, overlapping video images coming from different clips, the user can frame his dreams and fears.
Users are invited to create, draw diagrams, associations, which allow them to review and manipulate video images, put them in a different context. Deconstructing video images, combining them with texts, allows me to display information in a more individual way, open for a critical or personal approach. It opens a door for a discussion in between, where, filtered codified images and videos could express what the official flow of information is omitting.
AD. It sounds like a very interesting and necessary way to make people aware of not just Bareback but also other issues.
DB. Yes, that is the ideal. At the moment the project is still under construction because at the moment the application is too heavy. But the Bareback editor is supposed to register different selections and send them to the movie generator. Produced motions are ideally accessible on the web and displayed on a screening in the installation. In one hand this project works as a multimedia installation displaying our way of consuming porn. In the other hand it is a prototype of a, pataphysical movie editing tool inspired by Photoshop and motion tracking, shape analysis engines. I designed this tool in order to understand the mechanism of bareback pornography and the Internet based discourse dealing with porn and sexualities. This discourse is influenced by the censorship and web based censor-wares.
So at the moment the Bareback project functions as a forum on pornography and sexuality. It shows and makes bareback images public and playful (thanks to the color analysis engine). This to me is a way to show the gap between porn imagery and what we know about sex from mainstream media. In mainstream media the language, which deals with unsafe sex oscillates between criminalization, panic and a moralist discourse.
More information about Bareback and the underlying thoughts can be read in Dominik’s website where you can also download and use the software: Chroma
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